Spiritual Warfare: Taking the Offensive

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There Is No Time to Waste

At long last, we are nearing the end of our exercises in Spiritual Warfare.  Our graduation from Boot Camp is right around the corner, as is our return to our duty stations, where we will have the opportunity to put into action the things that we have learned here.  As we do, we can be confident that…

  • Because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross, we now possess the Authority we need to overtake and defeat any foe that we come up against;
  • Everything we will be called upon to overcome is all part of God’s way of preparing us for our Destiny, which is ruling and reigning with Christ when He comes to set up His Kingdom;
  • As we take the Light of the Gospel  into the sin-darkened territories presently held by Satan, we will be bringing liberation to those who are still being held captive there; and,
  • To prevent us from completing our missions, Satan will do everything in his power to stop us.

In light of this last point, before we can graduate and move on, there is one last exercise for us to complete—one providing us with an understanding of the basic principles of Strategic Warfare and the Offensive Weapons needed to ensure our success on the battlefield.

As we learned in our last exercise, we have been outfitted with a top-notch arsenal of defensive weapons known as the Armor of God.  These—the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of Peace, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit—when worn faithfully and used as directed, will provide us with the defensive covering we need whenever we come under attack by the devil.  However, there is more to Spiritual Warfare than merely protecting ourselves while we maintain our current positions.  To the contrary, we have been charged by Christ to launch out into the world, to be sown as seed among the nations, in order to free Satan’s spiritual captives and bring the Kingdom of Christ to the earth.  For, it was Christ who boldly proclaimed…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19)…

…and, it was He who also commissioned us to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

We Need to Carry Out His Strategy in Ways that Honor Our King Understanding Strategic Warfare

Understanding Strategic Warfare

When seeking to understand the principles of Strategic Warfare, it is essential that we first establish a clear definition for the term.  Since strategic is defined as…

…pertaining to, characterized, or of the nature of strategy…

…with strategy being…

…a plan, a method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.[1]

When we put this into a military context, Strategic Warfare can be defined as…

…the science and art of military command aimed at meeting the enemy under conditions advantageous to one’s own force…[2]

…a military command in which…

…a distinction is made between strategy and tactics.  Strategy is the utilization, during peace and war, of all of a nation’s forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security.  Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.[3]

Here, in this definition, we have two levels of war described for us; but, according to modern military theory, there are actually three that we need to take into consideration—the strategic, the operational, and the tactical, where…

…the strategic level…involves a strategic concept, plans for preparing all national instruments of power for war or conflict, practical guidance for preparing the armed forces, and leadership of the armed forces to achieve strategic objectives;

…the operational level is concerned with employing military forces in a theater of war or theater of operation to obtain an advantage over the enemy and thereby attain strategic goals through the design, organization, and conduct of campaigns and major operations; and,

…the tactical level translates potential combat power into success in battles and engagements through decisions and actions that create advantages when in contact with or in proximity to the enemy.[4]

To put this into more understandable terms, at the Strategic Level, those at the top of the chain of command are the ones responsible for creating an overall plan for winning the war, taking into account the manpower and materials they have at their disposal.  Once their plan is in place, they delegate different aspects of the plan to those serving under them at the Operational Level, whose duty it is to orchestrate and oversee the campaigns assigned to them and their individual theaters of operation.  Directives from this level can then be sent down to the Tactical Level—to those in charge of the troops on the ground—to make sure they are deployed to the right place at the right time, are appropriately trained and armed for each engagement, and they have adequate intelligence and support for each and every battle.

Why is this so important for us to know?  Because this is the same way that the Spiritual Warfare we’re engaged in is structured and carried out.  At its Strategic Level, creating the plan for the war itself, is God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Charged with the implementation and oversight of their plan’s many Operational Level campaigns are the Angels of various ranks and with specific responsibilities.  The troops on the ground at the Tactical Level are us—the Born Again members of the Church, serving under the leadership of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, whose responsibility it is to…

…equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Given that our enemy is merely a copier/counterfeiter and not a creator, he has pretty much duplicated this strategic structure—with the exception that, instead of the All-Wise, All-Powerful, and Everywhere-Present Creator God making the plans—he, the quintessential Usurper is the one devising the schemes that he hopes will one day defeat God’s Army, overthrow God, and catapult himself onto the throne of the universe.  Unlike our Commander-in-Chief, who is headquartered in the Third Heaven, this Presumptuous Pretender to the throne has been relegated to the less advantageous location of the Second Heaven, where he and his generals occupy what will prove, in the end, to be temporary thrones from which they oversee his operations in the First Heaven and on the Earth.

As we learned in Spiritual Warfare: Getting the Lay of the Land, these operations are carried out by an army of demonic subordinates whose responsibility is to keep their human charges on the earth in bondage to their master; and, should they somehow fail at this, to prevent those who do find freedom in Christ from growing in their knowledge of Him and from serving Him and His Kingdom purposes successfully.

The Plan for Winning the War

Assessing Strategies

To help us better understand the part Strategic Warfare plays in the on-going conflict between God and Satan, let’s assess and compare how each side makes use of these three levels.  We know from our exercise in Spiritual Warfare: Knowing the Enemy that…

  • Satan’s original plan—his Plan A—called for his overthrow of God and the take-over of His Throne in Heaven; however, given the fact that God was and still is All-Powerful, and Satan’s power was and still is severely limited in comparison, this proved to be a colossal failure.
  • This led to the creation of Satan’s Plan B, which called for him to set up his kingdom and reign upon the Earth—but, this plan, too, hit a wall when God created Man and gave him Dominion and Authority over the Earth instead.
  • Undaunted, Satan then devised a scheme whereby he could gain control of the Earth by taking God’s Authorized Representatives captive through deception and lies. So, lying about who he was, who they were, and who God is, Satan convinced Eve, then Adam, to disobey God.  As a result, Man and Woman became slaves to Satan, sin, and death, and the Authority which should have been theirs was handed over to Satan.
  • Satan’s plan was dealt a bitter blow, though, when eventually he, sin, and death were defeated through Christ’s Atoning Death and His powerful Resurrection.  As a result of His Victory, this Second Adam reclaimed the Authority that the First Adam had lost, and restored it to all those who afterward would come to the Father through Faith in His Finished Work on the Cross.
  • But, because Satan had already established rulership over the world’s systems and its structures, he continues to occupy territories which rightfully belong to Christ and His Church. What is enabling him to maintain his grip on them is the ignorance, timidity, or unwillingness of the Church to rise up and retake these areas in the Name and Authority of Christ, through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
  • So, Satan’s Strategy is—by whatever means necessary—to keep the people who don’t know God from knowing Him, and to keep those who do know Him too ignorant, too fearful, or too self-seeking and apathetic to do anything to dislodge him.

Given that Satan’s Strategy is primarily focused on maintaining control of the territories presently under his rule, it is essentially a Defensive Plan.   On the other hand, God’s Strategy, being one of Infiltration, is a decidedly Offensive One.  Because He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance, God has chosen to strategically place His very own Sons and Daughters in positions behind enemy lines where they can reveal the Love of Christ to the captives and, shining the Light of the Gospel into those dark places, they can illuminate a way of escape into the Kingdom of God.  This is exactly what God did when He sent His willing and obedient Son, Jesus, into Satan’s authorized territory where, having shone the Light of God in the darkness and revealed the Love of the Father there…

…Jesus’ obedience, then, took Him even to the cross, and through that to the empty tomb.  Thus He won the battle over Satan from behind enemy lines…to defeat the enemy and begin to establish His own Kingdom in the middle of enemy territory…

…and, since this was behind enemy lines, it meant warfare—spiritual warfare aimed at taking back God’s world from the usurper.[5]

Like our Savior, we have been assigned to carry on this mission in the very same way.

The Individual Campaigns of the War

Assessing Operations

Because Satan is neither omnipresent nor omniscient like God, he is limited to being in one place at a time.  Therefore, he must depend on a hierarchy of subordinates to carry out his operations, and rely on this system of underlings for his much-needed intelligence reports.  Depending upon their nature and location, these operations are most likely carried out by one of these three groups…

  • Satan’s Hierarchy—consisting of Rulers, Principalities, and Powers, with…
    • Rulers—being the spirits charged with gaining/maintaining control of the world’s authority structures, such as government at all levels, schools, businesses, churches, civic groups, athletic organizations, and families;
    • Principalities or Territorial Spirits—being the demonic spirits that are in charge of operations taking place within a specific geographic area or ethnic/cultural group of people; and,
    • Powers or Strongholds—being the spirits representing the evils associated with certain sins and the demons assigned to their promotion.
  • Forces of Darkness—the lying spirits behind any Religions, Philosophies, and Ideologies that are opposed to God and the Truth, including humanism, atheism, evolution, New Age, reincarnation, existentialism, socialism and communism; and,
  • Lower Level Spirits—the wicked spirits assigned to individuals in an effort to influence their behavior.[6]

No doubt imitated by Satan when he set up his own kingdom, God’s Operational Level is also made up of a hierarchical structure of spirits who carry out the operations called for in His plan.  Although the Bible doesn’t give us a lot of specifics about the structure itself, what we do know is that it consists of Angels operating at different levels, and possessing various degrees of authority.  From what we can gather in the scriptures, those closest to God and His Throne, and those highest in rank and authority, are the… 

Cherubim;
Seraphim; and
Living Creatures. 

  • Cherubim

The Cherubim are probably the highest ranking of all of the Lord’s Angels.  The first time they are mentioned in scripture is in Genesis 3:24 where, following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, they are placed as Guards at the entrance to the Garden, to keep Adam and Eve from returning and eating from the Tree of Life while in their fallen state.

They are next mentioned in Exodus 25:18, when God instructs Moses on how to build the Tabernacle.  For the Most Holy Place, Moses is told to make two Cherubim of gold and to place them at the two ends of the Mercy Seat…

The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be…

There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel (Exodus 25:20, 22).

The Mercy Seat which the Cherubim sheltered was also known as the Seat of Atonement and revered as the earthly Throne of God.  Verses such as these inform us that, in addition to their role as Guardians, the Cherubim also serve as the Bearers of God’s Throne…

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!  He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake (Psalm 99:1)!

“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth (Isaiah 36:17).

Ezekiel saw this throne and gave us a description of these incredible creatures in Ezekiel 1:5-14…

And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot.  And they sparkled like burnished bronze.  Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands.

And the four had their faces and their wings thus their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went.  As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.  Such were their faces.

And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.  And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.  And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Later in Ezekiel 28:14, we learn that Lucifer, Satan’s name in his pre-fallen state, was one—probably the highest ranking one—of these Angels…

You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. Ezekiel 28:14

Angels Carry Out the Operational Campaigns of God

  • Seraphim

Because the Seraphim are only mentioned once in the Bible—in Isaiah 6:1-3, 6-7—much less is known about them and their ministry. From Isaiah’s description…

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for…

…it would seem that, because of their non-stop praise and their access to the heavenly altar, their primary ministry is as priests before the throne of God.  And, given that their name means “burning ones,” I think we can infer that they are burning in passionate devotion to God and in their dedication to the praise of His holiness.

  • Living Creatures

Although Ezekiel, in his vision, describes the Cherubim as Living Creatures, in Revelation 4:6-8, we find another set of Living Creatures being described…

…around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:6-8)

These are set apart from those in Ezekiel in several ways…

…in Revelation, each one has only one face, whereas in Ezekiel each had four faces.  In Revelation, each has six wings; in Ezekiel, they had four.  In Revelation, they have eyes around and within; in Ezekiel, the eyes were in the wheels, and the spirits of the cherubim were in the wheels.  In revelation, they do not move; in Ezekiel, they propelled the throne of the sovereign God throughout the world. [7]

As for their ministry, in Revelation 6:1-7 and 15:7, we learn that, in addition to their worship and praise, these creatures also play instrumental parts in the execution of the God’s end-time judgments on the world.

  • The Other Angels

From other portions of scripture, besides being the worshipers at, the guardians of, and the priests before the Throne of God, we learn that the Angels carry out God’s operations in a number of other ways…

  • In Luke 2:10 and Acts 27:23-23, they serve as God’s Messengers;
  • In 2 Kings 6:17 and Daniel 10:13-20, they are God’s Warriors in the heavenlies and on earth;
  • In Daniel 4:13 and 17, they serve as God’s Watchers, observing and recording the affairs of men and nations;
  • In Psalm 34:7, Psalm 91:11, Daniel 6:22, and Acts 5:19, they provide Protection and Deliverance for God’s People;
  • In Genesis 24:7 and Exodus 23:20, they give Guidance and Direction to the righteous;
  • In Matthew 13:39-42 and Mark 13:27, Jesus informs us they will be the Reapers in the End-Times Harvest;
  • In Revelation 1:1, they bring God’s revelation to man;
  • In 2 Kings 19:35, Acts 12:23, and Psalm 78:49, they are God’s Instruments of Judgment and Destruction;
  • In Revelation 7:1-2 and Revelation 16:1, we learn that they have Power over God’s Creation;
  • In Matthew 18:10, we are told that they are the unseen Guardians of Children; and,
  • In Luke 16:22-23, we discover that they Escort the Saints into the Presence of God upon their deaths.

The Troops Deployed on the Ground

Assessing Tactics

With Satan’s Rulers engaged in controlling the world’s Authority Structures, and his Principalities busy riding roughshod over its Geographic and Ethnic Territories, it seems that the actual Tactical Maneuvers of his plan have been delegated to his Powers, Forces of Darkness, and Lower Lever Spirits for implementation.  These are the spirits who are responsible for establishing Strongholds, or bases of operation, in the minds of men and women, from which Satan can exercise control.  This is accomplished through their promotion of certain sins, through the lies contained in their false religions, philosophies, and ideologies, and through the intelligence gathered by and resulting from the harassment of the Lower Level or Familiar Spirits.

Those in this last group are the spirits that most of us must contend with on a daily basis.  They are the demons who, much like God’s Guardian Angels, are assigned to us at birth—those who study us, our habits and tendencies, throughout out lives, looking for ways and opportunities to trip us up and keep us in a perpetual state of confusion and defeat.  As Familiar Spirits, they become so well acquainted with us that they can pretty much predict what we’re thinking about and how we will react in any given situation.  Armed with such valuable information, they not only know which sins we will be predisposed to give into and which lies we will fall for, but also which of the Devil’s D-Bombs will be the most useful in rendering us ineffective…

The Devil’s D-Bombs are Some of His Most Effective Weapons

  • Distraction—a loss of focus, confusion;
  • Distortion—of the truth; or,
  • Deception—disguise and outright lies;
  • Disobedience—a disrespect for authority;
  • Delay—in answers to prayers and provisions;
  • Disruption—of plans and schedules;
  • Discouragement—resulting from stress, overwork, lack of appreciation, hurt feelings;
  • Depression—mental and emotional ailments, especially due to repressed anger;
  • Defeat—after repeated failures;
  • Destruction—a loss of property and reputation;
  • Disease—physical ailments and suffering; or,
  • Death—suicidal, accidental, or disease-related.

Apparently, in his dealings with those who already belong to him, Satan is free to use these, or any other evil tactics he can come up with, against them with impunity—especially if and when he finds that they are in danger of going over to the other side.  When it comes to dealing with those who belong to God, however, he doesn’t enjoy the same privilege.  We know this because, when he came against righteous Job (Job 1: 9-12), seeking to prove that Job only worshiped God for the blessings he could get out it, he had to obtain God’s permission to do so.  Later, in 2 Corinthians 12:7, we find out that he had to get God’s permission to harass the Apostle Paul, permission which was granted in order to achieve God’s higher purpose… 

…to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

While being limited in what he can do to the Righteous, Satan does enjoy a distinct advantage in his dealings with everyone else.  Because every person coming into the world is born “in sin” and in a state of alienation from God, they not only already belong to Satan, but they are, by virtue of their carnal natures, predisposed to living according to their physical appetites and soulish desires.  This state of affairs makes it easy for the Powers of Satan to do their work of establishing secure Strongholds within them—Strongholds from which they can operate throughout their lives, even if these people later come to Faith in Christ.

If We are to be Victorious, We Must Identify and Eliminate the Devil’s Fortresses in Our Lives

What Are Strongholds?

Simply put, Strongholds are faulty patterns of thinking which have developed such a “strong hold” on us that they keep us bound by bad habits, irrational behaviors, pride or an exaggerated sense of self.  They are anything in our lives that misrepresents God, anything that deceives us about who we really are, and anything that deludes us into thinking we can live life successfully apart from God.  These misrepresentations, deceptions, and delusions are ways of thinking that have developed in our minds over time, and which serve primarily as a means of keeping us alienated from, and at odds with, God.

Their points of origin can be traced all the way back to our births, when we arrive in this world with the strongest of all Strongholds already intact—an “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!” mentality.  Then, as we make our way through life, others are gradually added; with the most deeply ingrained ones coming first from our interactions with family, friends, and our early experiences in life, and with later ones coming from our educational and religious training (or lack thereof), or as a result of our encounters with the cultural forces at work all around us.  As such, they become fortresses erected around our erroneous beliefs; fortifications which, in our minds, serve to protect and justify our choices in life, and to help insulate us from any potentially painful experiences—and, which Satan delights in using to keep us in bondage or to render us useless in our Kingdom Service.

But, it needs to be noted here that bondage of this or of any other kind is an anathema to God.  Therefore, the Strongholds in our lives are one of the first things we must deal with in Spiritual Warfare.  Before we can successfully liberate any of Satan’s other territories, we must first rid our own of its enemy outposts.  As Jesus would say…

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

Because they are the heavily guarded outposts of lies and deceptions built up in our minds by the devil, and the devil is a powerful spirit whose chief aim is to keep us from God and His revelation of the Truth, the only way for us to deal with these Strongholds is through the power of a stronger Spirit–the Holy Spirit of Truth—and the Spiritual Weapons God has made available to us.  For…

…though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

With our spiritual armor in place, we can begin the process of taking our thoughts captive by exercising the authority delegated to us by Christ in Matthew 28:18; with it, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can proceed to bind up the “strong man,” or the demonic being in charge of protecting that mental fortification. According to Jesus’ instruction in Mark 4:27…

…no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.  Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Once this strong spirit is overthrown, we can move in and take captive any of the lying thoughts previously under his protection, and replace them with Truth from the Word of God.  As we do, we begin erecting a Strong Tower of Truth, built in the very place where the Stronghold of Lies once stood.  And, as warriors for Christ, we will have reclaimed territory too long in the possession of His enemies.

When it comes to God’s Tactical Operations, unlike Satan’s, which are nothing but destructive, God’s tactics are always redemptive and remedial, because they are borne out of love.  In Spiritual Warfare:  Understanding the Nature of the Conflict, we learned that the goal of Satan and those in his kingdom is to destroy the individual and absorb his will into their own, for no other reason than to satisfy their insatiable greed and increase their power base.  However, it is the goal of God and those in His Kingdom to bring the individual into the Family of God, shower him with love, and empower him to become the unique and whole/holy person God created him to be.   In the former, the motivation is selfishness and greed, while in the latter, it is giving and grace.

So, to help His Children realize their spiritual potential and prepare them for their eternal destinies, God routinely deploys them to the front lines of the conflict where, in the heat of the battle, their character will be refined and they can learn to use their Offensive Weapons to overcome His enemies.

Fighting the War with God’s Weapons will Ensure Our Victory

Our Offensive Weapons 

When it comes to a discussion of our Offensive Weapons, it may come as a surprise to learn that the most powerful one in this category is a Godly Lifestyle.  That’s because…

Spiritual Warfare is not just a prayer prayed or a demon rebuked—it is a life lived…everything we do either aids the forces of darkness or repels them…

Since it is sin that gives the devil an entryway into our lives, we need to take seriously the charge given to us in Ephesians 4:27 to…

…not give place to the devil.

Maintaining this kind of lifestyle, though, demands that we “keep short accounts with God.” To do so, we need to vigilantly guard our hearts and minds, and routinely examine our lives to see if there is any sin that has gone unchecked and unrepentant of, for…

Repentance is a major weapon against Satan.  It’s simple:  if I repent, I break the powers of darkness.  But if I’m disobedient, I allow the enemy to work.  If I obey God, I hold the devil off.  If I’m moving in unbelief, I make room for him.  But if I exercise faith, I cut him off.[8]

The reason behind this is also a simple one.  Because Spiritual Warfare is the cosmic conflict between two competing wills—the holy and perfect will of God and the perverted and opposing will of Satan, both vying for the allegiance of man—and, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each human being living on the planet, every time a person chooses to do that which satisfies his own selfish desires, he is actually empowering Satan to carry on his work.

To help us keep this from happening, we need Faith and Obedience, two more of the weapons making up our offensive arsenal.  Faith is that inner assurance or confidence we have that, because our Father knows what exactly He is doing, He has a good plan in place, even if we don’t know yet what it is.  As we develop more of this kind of Faith, it becomes easier for us to believe God for the impossible, to launch out into new territories, and to pray our way to victory.  Jesus told His disciples as much in Matthew 17:20 when he said…

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Our Obedience is simply the outward demonstration of our inner trust that this is so.  In our submission and obedience to a higher Authority, we are not only coming at Satan in an opposing spirit—which serves to render him ineffective in that situation—but, we are also keeping him from sowing his seeds of pride and rebellion in our hearts.

When We Come at Our Enemy in an Opposite Spirit, His Power is Negated and Rendered Ineffective

Although we may not realize it, obedience is a key factor in Spiritual Warfare because…

There are rules and principles by which the spirit world operates.  Among the most important of these:  the rules that govern authority relationships.[9]

As we have emphasized so many times over the course of these exercises, God has established a very specific authority structure within Creation, and it is one that He expects us to honor.  When we don’t—that is, when we use our wills to do things that overturn that order—we are actually giving Satan and his demons permission to carry out their wills in the spheres where we live…

Scripture is clear that there is a close connection between the spirit world and the human world.  In spite of our habit of regarding spirit things and human things as separate, in Scripture these realms are not compartmentalized from each other.  They are tightly interrelated, with events that go on in the spirit realm having repercussions in the human realm, and vice-versa.

Furthermore, the same rules seem to govern interaction between humans and God and humans and Satan.  The authority of God to do what He wants, for example, seems enhanced when His devotees obey, acknowledge the authority of, pray to or worship Him.  Likewise, the authority of Satan to do what he wants is enhanced when his devotees respond in such ways to him.

It looks as though a major principle is this:  The way authority is exercised in the human sphere affects what goes on in the spiritual realm, and vice-versa.[10]

Closely associated with our Obedience, then, are the weapons of Discipline and Self-Control—two things which must be instilled in any soldier who is to be used by God.  These are essential to us if we are to avoid the many land mine of temptation that the devil has carefully laid out in his effort to sideline us from our service.  This is a reality that even the Apostle Paul had to come to grips with in his ministry, leading him to…

…discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).

So, it stands to reason that we must learn to do the same.

For the Battle is the Lord’s

As for Prayer and Worship, if God’s authority is enhanced through our implementation of these two weapons, then they are ones that we definitely need to use more often.  When we pray, we are not just staying in touch with our Father, but we are activating the ministry of His Angels on our behalf and releasing His power into the lives and situations that need it, while rendering the enemy in those situations powerless.  Then, when we worship God and offer Him a fitting sacrifice of praise, we are not only giving God His due but we are actually creating confusion in the enemy’s camp and throwing his troops into disarray.

Probably the best illustration of this is the story recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20:14-15,17,20-23.  When the Moabites, Ammonites, and people of Mount Seir came against Judah and godly King Jehoshaphat, the king prostrated himself before God, and pleaded with Him to deliver him and his people from these enemies.  At that point…

…the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.’

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.’

And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.’

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.  For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

Afterward, all Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah had to do was collect the spoils, something which took three days for them to do.

In addition to the Prayer, Worship, and Praise offered by the people to God in this situation, it is apparent that the Word of God, which was given to them by means of His prophet, played a decisive role in the securing of this victory.  In our last exercise, we learned that the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit with which we guard our minds against our enemies’ assaults; but, this is not the only way that God intends for it is to be used when it comes to Spiritual Warfare.  Because His Word is the Spirit-inspired revelation of His character, and His will and His purposes for Man and the Earth, when we speak His Word into a situation, we are actually declaring that His will regarding that situation be done.  And, as we speak His Word into that situation, the resources of heaven are activated to ensure that His Will is carried out there.

Some of the other Offensive Weapons at our disposal, that we don’t make use of the way we should are…

  • patience, consistency, and tenacity, by which we learn to wait on God and His timing, and to not give up even in the face of adversity and suffering;
  • giving, for when we are generous with our time, talents, and resources, we sow seeds of provision into the lives of others and in our own lives as well;
  • love, because it covers a multitude of sins, and it enables us to overcome evil with good; and,
  • unity, because it not only increases our effectiveness exponentially and helps to speed our victory—but, because it was the chief concern on Jesus’ heart when, on His last evening before going to the Cross, he offered this prayer on behalf of His disciples

And now, Father…I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me…keep them in your name…they may be one, even as we are one.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:6ff).

Amen–may it be so, Lord Jesus!

To Win the World for Christ, We Must Become United in Our Purpose

 

 

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir reminds us what it is all about…

 

[1] Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018, at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/strategy?s=t

[2] Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, Revised and Updated Edition (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2014).

[3] Dictionary.com Unabridged.

[4] USAF College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education (CADRE), Air and Space Power Mentoring Guide, Vol. 1 (Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Air University Press, 1997), excerpt.+

[5] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority: Practicing the Authority Jesus Gave Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 1997), 22.

[6] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 95-114.

[7] C. Fred Dickason, Names of Angels (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1997), 58.

[8] Sherman, Spiritual Warfare, 182.

[9] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority: Practicing the Authority Jesus Gave Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 1997), 123.

[10] Kraft, I Give You Authority, 124-125.

Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Nature of the Conflict

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This is War

And We Need to Know What It’s All About

Having established some of the foundational principles for Spiritual Warfare in our last two exercises—that…

  1. Through Christ, we are once-again the divinely Authorized Rulers over Planet Earth; and,
  2. By learning to exercise our Authority over His and our enemies, we are being trained to rule along with Christ when He returns to the Earth to set up His Kingdom…

…it is time for us to move on to the training exercises that will help ensure our victory in the spiritual battles that lie ahead.  To help us get into the best fighting shape possible, this training will include exercises in…

Understanding the Nature of the Conflict;
Knowing the Enemy;
Getting the Lay of the Land;
Gearing Up for Battle; and,
Honoring the Rules of Engagement.

That being said, let’s get exercise number one underway by first assessing what is involved in this conflict; for…

…what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:31)?

What We Need to Know

At the outbreak of any war, before the potential combatants suit up and march off to battle, it is essential that they know whom they will be fighting and what they will be fighting for.  In order for them to be fully committed to winning the war at any cost, they must first understand the reason behind the conflict and just what is at stake in it for them.  If they don’t believe they have a personal interest in it, then they won’t even bother to show up.  I think this concept is best illustrated by a brief look at the United States and its delayed entry into World War II.

Throughout much of its history, when it came to its involvement in overseas wars, the United States maintained a policy of isolationism, because it didn’t see that it had a personal stake in those faraway conflicts.  Maintaining this position was possible because, unlike a lot of the nations in other parts of the world—nations which shared common borders—the United States was protected east and west by oceans, and shared its northern and southern borders with only two neighboring—and friendly—countries.  So, why become involved in wars on the other side of the world which seemingly had no bearing on life in America?

Uncle Sam Wants You

And Uncle Sam Got Them , Too!

All of this changed, however, when Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, and he began his rampage across Europe in pursuit of world domination.  At first, even though war had been declared by England and France in 1939 and Hitler had been wreaking havoc across the continent before then (with his oriental ally, Japan, doing the same in the Far East even longer than that), the US refused to become involved.  Since it wasn’t being affected by the war, why fight in it?  That was its position until Japan attacked America’s naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—and, then, it became personal!  The US immediately declared war and thousands of young men—eventually millions—made their way to the nearest military recruiter and signed up, because they suddenly had a stake in the outcome of the war!

Although the Second World War was…

…the most widespread and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries and resulting in more than 50 million military and civilian deaths (with some estimates as high as 85 million dead)…[1]

…the war which has been raging in the spiritual world since the beginning of time is one that has affected far more people (every person who has ever lived, in fact), and is far deadlier than WWII—or, all of the wars in human history put together, for that matter.  That’s because it is the one war which has not only impacted the quality of life on this planet and endangered the life of every human being on it on a daily basis, but it is the one war which has determined the eternal destiny of every person who has made the earth his home.  Given this, it is a war in which we all have a very personal stake—and one that we each need to understand more fully and take more seriously!

To help us do this, let’s take a moment and look at this war within the overall context of the Bible Story, in an effort to discover…

The Source of the Conflict;
The Nature of the Conflict; and,
The Outcome of the Conflict.

As we do, we need to keep in mind God’s original goal for Mankind and the Earth—which was, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth, with His Sons and Daughters ruling over it in Righteousness.  We know this to be true because…

  • God gave the first Man and Woman Dominion over the Earth—that is, the Authority to Rule it–which they subsequently lost to Satan; and,
  • Jesus later came to the Earth and reclaimed that lost Authority through His death and resurrection, and restored it to the Children of God.

In fact, as these verses illustrate, Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on restoring the lost Kingdom of God and re-establishing it on the Earth within the Hearts of Men…

From that time [the beginning of His ministry] Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5)

…but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11)

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried…your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the   (Luke 12:29-32)

The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. (Luke 16:16)

…and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29)

And this gospel [the good news] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Since the Kingdom of God—both its restoration and proclamation—was at the heart of Jesus’ mission to Earth, then it stands to reason that it must have been the reason for the conflict in the first place.

The Source of the Conflict

To discover the reason behind this war, we must go back before time even began; when, at some point in Eternity Past, the All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God purposed to have a Family and to create the Earth as the place for that Family to live.  In anticipation of this, He first created a huge Host of Angelic Beings, whose purpose would be to serve Him by serving His soon-to-be Heirs of Salvation—or, the coming Sons and Daughters of God…

Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?  (Hebrews 1:7, 14)

Angels of the Lord

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Psalm 148:2

To facilitate this future Service, God created different types of Angels, each one designed for a specific purpose and each one given a particular rank of Authority—with those highest in rank called Archangels.  One of these Archangels was named Lucifer; and, as possibly the highest-ranking Angel, it was his job to protect the Throne of God and lead the Worship which took place around itHe must have been something to behold, because in Ezekiel 28 he was described as being…

…the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty… every precious stone was your covering… On the day that you were created they were prepared.

You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created.

That is…

…till unrighteousness was found in you… you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground… (Ezekiel 28:14-18)

Just what could have caused this?  In Isaiah 14, we learn that…

You [Lucifer] said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’  (Isaiah 14:13-14)

In other words, Lucifer—now the Devil and Satan—so coveted God’s Throne and Power that he rebelled against God in an effort to obtain that Throne and usurp His Power.  Having been denied the Throne in the Kingdom of Heaven, Satan then purposed to set up his own kingdom here on Earth.

God had other plans for the Earth, though; for, as we have already learned, He intended for it to be ruled by Man.  So, try to imagine the outrage that Satan must have felt when he heard God announce…

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Genesis 1:26)…

…as well as his delight when the Woman he tempted…

…saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).

What a coup!  Not only did he succeed in enslaving Man and alienating him from God, but he also managed to wrest the Right to Rule from Man so that he could set up his own kingdom here on the Earth.  Where before, there had only been One Kingdom and One Will in existence—that being God’s—there were now Two Kingdoms and Wills, both contending for the hearts and allegiances of Men and Women.  As Watchman Nee explains…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

This is so important for us to grasp, because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each human being living on this planet; and, it is determined every time he or she  chooses to do what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.  To put it simply, then, this contention for the free will of man is what this war is all about.

The Nature of the Conflict

When we describe this war as a clash between kingdoms, mind you, we are not talking about physical or material kingdoms, but spiritual ones.  They are actually the systems of governance which rule the hearts and minds of people and, by extension, the operating systems existing in the spheres where these people live.  We need to clarify this because I think there is a tendency on our parts to regard Satan as the owner of the Earth when, in reality, he isn’t.  In Ephesians 2:2, the Apostle Paul calls him the Prince of the Power of the Air because that is where his domain is.  The Earth itself, on the other hand, still belongs to God…

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein… (Psalm 24:1)

Since Adam and Eve were only given the Right to Rule as God’s governors on the Earth—and not the title deed to it—the Dominion that Satan took from them also gave him the Authority to rule over the world and its systems, but not the legal ownership of the Earth.  Even so, this Authority alone was enough to enable him, over time, to establish the political, cultural, and religious systems that are so reflective of his ambition and nature–systems which he has used so effectively to manipulate and dominate his poor, unsuspecting subjects ever since the Garden of Eden.

Because Satan’s kingdom was founded upon pride and rebellion, and operates on the basis of deception and lies, slander and corruption, every institution that he has established as part of this world’s system bears those same characteristics and functions according to the same principles.  Through these institutions, as well as through his constant appeal to the pride and baser human instincts of man, he has—as the god of this world—been able to control the hearts, minds, and especially the wills of those in his kingdom, and has…

…blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The Devil's Tactics

No Tactic is too Low

In the war to maintain control of his subjects and his territory, no underhanded scheme or dirty trick has been beneath him—with guerrilla warfare being his specialty.   To use the words of Jesus…

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44); and, is…

The thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

C.S Lewis, in his classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, imagines this war of wills through the eyes of a seasoned demon named Screwtape, when he writes…

To us [demons] a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. [3]

In this excerpt, Lewis clarifies the Nature of the Conflict for us:  Satan and those in his kingdom want to destroy the individual and absorb his will into their own, in order to satisfy their insatiable greed and increase their power base; while God and those in His Kingdom want to bring the individual into the Family of God, shower him with love, and empower him to become the unique and whole/holy person God created him to be.   In the former, the motivation is selfishness and greed, while in the latter, it is giving and grace.  Given the marked contrast in the nature of these two kingdoms, we might wonder why anyone in their right mind would will to remain in a kingdom such a Satan’s, when they could will to enjoy the freedom in a Kingdom like God’s.  As I see it, the most likely explanation is that they have no idea that the Kingdom of God even exists, and that they can actually choose to be a part of it—a situation directly attributable to the Church’s lack of obedience in carrying out Christ’s final and Great Commission to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-19).

Soldier of the Cross

Armed and Ready to Serve

As the Sons and Daughters of God–and Soldiers of the Cross, it is our responsibility to take the Light of the Gospel into the sin-darkened territories held by Satan, so that those still imprisoned there can see their way clear to the Kingdom of God.  Instead of going AWOL, we need to suit up and show up, ready for battle—because the sooner we do what we are supposed to do, the sooner the war will end.

The Outcome of the Conflict

Because…

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…He will not bring this war to an end until every single one of His Children has been brought home to Him.  When all those who will be saved are saved, and His Family is complete, He will crush His enemies, merely by the Word of His mouth, and set up His Kingdom of Righteousness and Peace on the Earth. Satan and all those in his kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire where they will suffer forever, while those in God’s Kingdom will take their places before him and hear, at last, their Father say…

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:21).

 

Keith and Kristyn Getty challenge the Church to Arise…

 

 

 

[1] History Channel Website, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii.

[2] Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

 

Service:  The Church as the Body of Christ

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Exercising through Service

Getting Stronger and Reaching the World

In our previous exercise, we began a new level of workout routines dealing with Service; and, during the course of that introductory routine, we learned how, through our service for Christ, the good works which He began are still being done in the world today.  Then, as we searched for a definition of the word, especially as it relates to us as believers, we discovered some of the Terms of Service which must be adhered to, if any enduring work for Christ is to be accomplished.  These are…

  • Service must begin at the altar of worship, where we surrender our wills to God’s will;
  • Service must be motivated by our love for Christ;
  • Service must proceed from clean hands and pure hearts; and,
  • Service, like that which Jesus performed—and, other than our post-salvation, personal MDLA, or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—must be done in cooperation with other members of the Corporate Body of Christ, or the entity better known as The Church.
We Are the Church Together

Not a Building but a Body of Believers

Too often, when we hear the word Church, the image that comes to mind is of a building.  However, the real Church of Jesus Christ is not and was never intended to be an architectural structure or an organized institution, into which the Children of God could retreat in search of protection or insulation from the world.

Rather, it was designed by God to be the collective and universal spiritual manifestation of Christ on the earth; one in which Christ is no longer limited to serving through just one physical body, living in one time and in one place.  Instead, with His Presence and Power multiplied many times over in the lives of Believers scattered across the globe, the works that He once did during His Incarnation are now being replicated worldwide by the members of His spiritual body, the Church.

In order to grasp this concept a little better, we must realize that, even though God loves each one of us individually, Christ died for each one of us individually, and we are each saved individually, at the moment we receive our Salvation, the Holy Spirit is busily and quite imperceptibly baptizing us into the Collective Spiritual Body of Christ; positioning us within that Body wherever He deems best, and assigning specific roles or functions to us that we are to carry out within the Body

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.   For the body does not consist of one member but of many…as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose ( 1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 18).

Before getting into what those roles may be, though, we first need to learn how God intended for the Body of Christ to operate.

In one of our earlier exercises, Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected, we learned that when God created Man, He fashioned him with an individual or Personal Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…

  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world;
  • Through his Soul, he could relate to others on both emotional and intellectual levels; and,
  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to God and learn how he could use his will to bring God’s will to pass on the earth.

In much the same way, God’s design for the Body of Christ called for it to have a Corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit,  so that…

  • Through its Body, the Church could relate to and carry on the work of Christ in the world outside of the Church;
  • Through its Soul, the Church could relate as a Family to those within the Church, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Through its Spirit, the Church could serve heaven as an Army of Spiritual Warriors; one united in its mission to overthrow the Enemy of God, take the territory previously held by him, and bring the Kingdom and the Will of God to rule on the earth in his place.

In short, God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ is for it to…

  • Function externally in the world as a unified Body, under the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ;
  • Relate internally to its members as a Family, under the loving guidance of God the Father; and
  • Serve eternally by advancing the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Warfare, under the command of its General, the Holy Spirit.
In the World

…Being in the world but not of it


The Church as a Body
 

Since God’s purpose in creating mankind was to obtain a spiritual family of holy sons and daughters; and, since He was not willing…

…that any should perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…God purposed that His Church, in its function as a unified Body, would reach out to those in the world who had not yet to come to repentance—that is, those who have yet to be adopted as His children.  In fact, forty days after His resurrection, as He was preparing to go back to His Father in heaven, Christ charged His disciples—those who would soon become the Church—with this very task in the Great Commission…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).

As for how Jesus intended the soon-to-be Body of Christ to fulfill this charge, it was to be accomplished by its members…

  • As they lived before the world according to the kingdom principles He had taught them in the Sermon on the Mount; and,
  • Through acts of service empowered by the giftings of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be bestowed upon them.
The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus Teaching the Principles of Kingdom Living in the Sermon on the Mount


The Body and Kingdom Living
 

After choosing His disciples, one of the first things Jesus did was to gather them together and give them an introductory lesson in Kingdom Living.  This lesson, called the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7), must have been tremendously unsettling for them because in it, Jesus was establishing as their new standard for living, a set of principles which completely contradicted everything they had been taught was true.  That’s because, in the culture of that day—much like in our present day—they had grown up believing that being healthy, wealthy, religious, and without any apparent problems were all indicators that one had been blessed by God.  But here, in what has come to be known as The Beatitudes, Jesus was declaring that for the Children of God, the very opposite of this was true; that the ones who would be blessed by God are…

the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).

And, it would be these seemingly weak, insignificant, and oftentimes marginalized members of society, as they learned to live out the Kingdom Principles Jesus highlighted in His Sermon—principles such as…

  • Kingdom Living requires more of us than surface level righteousness; it requires true righteousness which begins in our hearts and then proceeds outward;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we love our enemies, blessing instead of cursing them;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we treat others the way we would want them to treat us;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we replace outward demonstrations of piety, designed to impress others, with giving, praying, and fasting done in secret; and,
  • Kingdom Living requires that we cease judging others and that we forgive them instead, just as God has forgiven us…

…who would become the salt of the earth and the light of God in a darkened world, and so spiritually emboldened that they would later be spoken of by the Thessalonians in Acts 17:6 in this way…

These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.


The Body and Spiritual Gifts
 

Surely, living according to God’s Kingdom Principles—that is, living lives radically different from the cultural norm—would prove to be a great way for believers to pique the interest and attract the attention of those living outside of the Body of Christ; however, just getting their attention would not be sufficient to get them saved, and moved from the outside to the inside of the Body of Believers.  To make a transfer like that happen, from the world’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God, the involvement of the Holy Spirit would be required; which is why, just before His ascension Jesus ordered His disciples

…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

[For] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [after that] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It would take the power of the Holy Spirit, working through individual believers, to produce Acts of Service like the ones Jesus performed, and in the way that God had ordained–which was, with the members of Christ’s Body working together, using the Spiritual Gifts assigned to them at the time of their Salvation.

 

Spiritual Gift

The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to All


Spiritual Gifts,
unlike the natural talents we are born with or the skills which we develop on our own throughout life, are the special spiritual abilities or enablements given to believers for the purpose of growing and building up of the Church, the Body of Christ.  The Apostle Paul explains them far better  than I could, here in these passages from three of his letters… 

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor.12: 1, 4-6).

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11). 

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:4-8). 

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Although we will go into more detail about these Gifts of the Spirit in a future exercise, to summarize what we have learned so far about Service and the Church, we now know that…

  • as the members of Christ’s Body model the character and behavior of Christ before the world—the character developed in them as the Fruit of the Spirit, and the behavior epitomized in the Kingdom Living Principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount; and…
  • as, the members of Christ’s Body reach out to the world through their Acts of Service—service which has been initiated, coordinated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit

…the world will be reached with the Gospel, the family and kingdom of God will be expanded, and the function of the Church as the Corporate Body of Christ will have been realized.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Unspoken reminds us that if we are to do the works of Christ, we will need the Holy Spirit to “Start a Fire” in our souls…

 

 

Original image of the Sermon on the Mount courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Service: Continuing the Work of Christ in the World

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Service Please

All of God’s Children are Called to Serve

Now that we’re about halfway through our Workout Program, let’s pause briefly to review the progress we have made thus far.  We started out this regimen with four exercises in Salvationexercises through which we learned that…

  • Salvation is obtained through the one-time spiritual event known as the New Birth; an act taking us from sin-enslaved and hell-bound sinners to forgiven and heaven-bound sons and daughters of God;
  • While everyone has been Predestined, or pre-designed, by God to become one of His children, only those who elect to receive His offer of Salvation will do so; and,
  • Once that decision is made and our spiritual adoption is finalized, our Salvation is forever settled and rests Eternally Secure in the hands of our Heavenly Father.

Building upon this foundation during our next five exercises, we were introduced to Sanctification, the lifelong process of spiritual transformation which begins the moment we are reborn—and, the focus of which is the Holy Spirit’s Restoration of our Souls through Prayer, Bible Study, and Worship.  For, it is…

Through Prayer that He brings our hearts into alignment with the heart of God;
Through Bible Study that He brings our minds into alignment with the mind of Christ; and,
Through Worship that He brings our wills into alignment with the will of God.

Once these changes start revolutionizing the way we feel, think, and act, it isn’t long before our perceptions of the world around us also begin to change.  No longer approaching it from the self-centered, grab-all-that-you-can-get perspective of our pre-salvation days, we start looking at it from God’s viewpoint—that is, with a heart of compassion for those still lost in sin, and with a new desire to do something about it.  Such changes in our character and outlook as these should come as no surprise, though, because they are a reflection of the attitude and characteristics of Christ which must be developed in us, if we are to carry out His work in the world.

The Works of Jesus

…and greater works than these we will do

The Works of Jesus

When we consider the nature and the number of things that Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry, the prospect of us continuing His work seems a rather far-fetched, if not impossible, task to undertake. After all, during His brief ministry here, He…

Revealed God to the people, and taught them what the Kingdom of Heaven was like;
Healed the sick—restoring sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb;
Raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and shared the water of life with those who thirsted for it;
Took the religious leaders to task while putting the political leaders in their places; and, then…
As if it were a small thing, walked on water and subdued the storm… 

…making His the most difficult act of all times to follow.  And yet, in the Upper Room, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)…

But, are we really to do greater works than Jesus did—and if we are, how is that possible?  We fully expect Him to be capable of doing works of this magnitude because He is, after all, the Son of God; and, because…

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [so that] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10:38).

However, for us to be able to do even greater things than He—that’s a completely different story, isn’t it?

It would be if we were attempting to do these works in our unsaved and unsanctified conditions.  What we need to keep in mind, though, is that while Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God, when we came to Him for Salvation, we became the Adopted Sons and Daughters of God—as well as the legal heirs to and partakers of all the riches and power belonging to Christ.  And, it is for this reason that Jesus could and would make the following promises to us…

…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17); and,

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

If we doubted the possibility of our being able to carry out the work of Jesus before, we should be encouraged by these promises of Jesus; for, in them, we are assured that He will provide everything we need to fulfill the purpose for which we were created; a purpose which is described by the Apostle Paul in this way…

…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

As for understanding what He may have meant by “doing greater works,” we must to remember that during His life on earth, and in spite of His being God, Jesus willingly chose to confine Himself to one body, living in one time and one place.  As a result, His ministry of good works was confined to a limited number of people, living in one geographic area, during one brief period in human history.  This all changed, however, following His resurrection and with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.

After that, as His newly-anointed disciples shared the Gospel with others and they, in turn, came to faith in Christ, the same resurrection life and power that the disciples had received was also manifested in these newborn Christians.  Then, as more and more people became believers, and as these believers scattered throughout the then-known world, demonstrating the character and commitment of Christ as they went, the quantity and scope of Jesus’ works increased to a degree previously thought impossible—and resulted in an explosion of faith and service that continues to this very day.

Terms of Service

Service for Christ must be done in His Will and Way

What It Means to Serve

When thinking about service and what it means, it’s likely that a number of different images come to mind.  For instance, we might think of service as serving in the military, or as police officers and firefighters; possibly serving patrons their dinners in restaurants; or, maybe even serving the ball in a game of tennis.  But, for those of us who are Christ followers, what does it mean for us to serve? 

In pursuit of an answer to this question, I looked to my handy-dandy Webster’s pocket dictionary—where, among the many definitions for the word, I found four that are highly relevant to this discussion.  And, in adapting them to the exercise at hand, I discovered that they provide us with a systematic, progressive definition of Serving, which for the believer, means…

  1. Rendering obedience and worship to God;
  2. Complying with the commands or demands of Christ;
  3. Being of use to the Master; and,
  4. Providing services that benefit or help others.
     
  1. Rendering Obedience and Worship to God

In one of our previous exercises, Sanctification: Restoring the Will through Worship, we learned that real worship is what takes place when we lay aside our will and wants, and choose to do God’s will instead.  This is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane as He surrendered His will to that of His Father; modeling for us a type of surrender later described in Romans 12:1…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…

..and, a surrender that each of us will be called upon to make as a routine part of our service.  Every day, we will find that, as we are faced with the choice of doing things God’s way or our way, we will repeatedly have to make a conscious decision to climb back on the altar of sacrifice and submit our wills to His in a demonstration of our obedience and worship to God.  If we don’t, no real work for Christ will take place; for, it is at the altar of worship that all service in His name originates.

  1. Complying with the Commands of Christ

In the same way that Jesus set the example for worship through the submission of His will to God’s, He demonstrated His love for the Father through His whole-hearted compliance with His Father’s commands–as He stated here in John 14:31…

…I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Because He did this first, His expectation is for us to follow His lead and do the same thing, so that the world will see how much we love Him and He loves us…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:12-14).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

From this, we learn that love must be the motivation for any service done in Jesus’ name; something which the Apostle Paul elaborates on in 1 Corinthians 13…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The often overlooked aspect of this is that, along with our compliance to His commandment, comes the promise of Jesus that…

…whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him…[and] Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (1 John 3:22, 24)…

…a promise which makes even the most impossible task or service do-able.

  1. Being of Use to the Master

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Tim. 2:20-21

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing his spiritual son, Timothy, on how to be a good servant through a comparison of God’s servants to household vessels.  Just as a homeowner makes distinctions between the vessels in his possession, such as using only the cleanest ones to eat off of, God will only use those servants who have cleansed themselves of sin through confession and repentance.  Or, as Paul goes on to tell Timothy in verse 22…

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart….

…with the lesson here being, service done in the name of the Lord Jesus must always proceed from a pure heart and clean hands.

Clean Hands and Pure Heart

Service for Christ Must Come from Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

  1. Providing Services that Benefit or Help Others 

With our wills surrendered to God at the altar of worship, with the love of Christ as our motivation, and with clean hands and pure hearts to keep us useful to God, we are ready to move on to the fourth aspect of service—which is, the provision of services that will benefit others.  This raises the question, though, about the kinds of service we should be providing. After all, there are so many needs in the world that are going unmet, how are we to know which ones are the most deserving of our attention?

Surely, as a result of our Salvation and of the Spirit’s work of Sanctification taking place in our souls, we are already engaged in good works that are in keeping with our new lives in Christ—works such as the ones cataloged in Ephesians 4:25 ff…

Having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor;

Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun go down on your anger;

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone who is in need;

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear;

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice; and,

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…

…works which could be considered as the MDLA—or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—required of each and every believer.  Moving beyond these, though—that is, moving on to doing the greater works than those previously attributed to Jesus—will call for more than just our minimum daily lifestyle adjustments; they will demand the wisdom, direction, and anointing of the Holy Spirit, working through the cooperative gifts and prayers of all believers.  In other words, providing Service for Jesus will require the active participation of the Church—something which we will discuss at length in our next exercise.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that through our service, we show the love of the Lord to the world and bring glory to our King…

 


Images used in the Works of Jesus montage courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through the Word of God

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A well-worn Bible
We really stretched our spiritual muscles in our last exercise—Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Prayeras we learned how the Holy Spirit teaches us to talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and how He uses those prayers to…

Make us One with the Father in His Person; and,
Make us One with the Father in His Purpose.

 Additionally, through these prayers He opens up an emotional “love-line” between God and us; creating a place where we are free to express our deepest feelings and concerns without censure; and where, as our spirits and hearts become united with God’s over time, we are able to absorb and share in the things which are nearest and dearest to His heart.

Prayer, however, isn’t the only tool that the Holy Spirit uses in the restoration of our souls; He also relies on the Word of God to instruct us on how to listen to God, and to discern His will.  In much the same way that the Spirit employs prayer to bring our hearts into one accord with the Father’s, He uses the Word to transform our minds from ones programmed for evil by the world, our flesh, and the devil, into ones which have been rewired for righteousness by God—that is, ones having been brought into alignment with the very mind of Christ. 

Mind Under Construction

Mind Under Construction

For some insight into this mind, we need look no further than Philippians 2:5-8, where the Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonishes us to…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient, to the point of death, even death on the cross. 

This sort of humble, selfless mindset certainly doesn’t resemble the ones we brought with us into our new relationships with God; rather, ours was more like the one described in Ephesians 4:17-18…

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 

To put it another way, while they were in their unregenerate states…

…our minds served no useful purpose as far as God and His kingdom were concerned;
…our mind’s ability to grasp or comprehend the Truth of the Gospel was clouded over;
…our minds were estranged from and even hostile to God;
…our minds were uneducated or untaught in the ways of God; all because…
…our hearts were rigidly firm in their will and purpose, and not easily penetrated by the Truth of God’s Word…

 …conditions which were due to the fact that…

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). 

All of this changed, however, when we were Born Again and the Holy Spirit moved in with us, beginning the transformation of our once darkened minds into ones filled with the light and life of Christ—and, ones in complete agreement with the will and purpose of God our Father.  A change as radical as this, though, isn’t something that takes place very quickly or easily.  It can only be brought about as we, who were previously uneducated and untaught in the ways of God, begin to learn…

Who God really is;
What His purposes are for mankind;
What His plans are for the earth; and,
The means He uses to see that these plans and purposes are achieved. 

Since this kind of information is not and has never been available to the minds of natural men, in order for us to obtain it, we must trust the Holy Spirit for its provision; for, it is He who…

…searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:10-13).

And, it is these spiritual truths which He has made available to us is the Bible, the Spirit-inspired training manual on God and His Ways—and, the book also known to us as the Word of God.

Truth is


The Bible as the Word of God 

Although we often hear it spoken of as such, what do we really mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?  Well, in checking the dictionary for the meaning of the word “Word,” we find it formally defined as…

…a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning…[1]

…which is just a fancy way of saying that a word is the spoken or written representation of a person’s thoughts—a definition wholly consistent with the way it is used in John 1:1-4—where, the Word spoken of is a Person, who is none other than Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In this passage, the Greek term used for Word is logos which, roughly translated, means collected thought and wisdom and, in this case, refers to the collected thought and wisdom of God.  That is, in describing Jesus as the logos of God, John is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of the collected thought and wisdom of God, who was spoken into the world, not only during its creation and throughout all human history, but also in His Incarnation—something which he makes clear later in John 1:14, where he tells us that…

…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In essence, he is saying that everything God thought about truth, righteousness, holiness, love, compassion, humility, mercy, grace, integrity, strength, perseverance, selflessness, and so much more, was expressed to us in Jesus.  And, not only that, everything that God intended for mankind to be was manifested in the flesh for us by Jesus.  As the righteous and obedient Son who came to carry out His Father’s will on the earth, He was, is, and always will be the Divine Template for what a Child of God should be like; and, He will be the One against whom we will all be measured—that is, as we all…

…attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:13-15).

It is this Word, then—this collected thought and wisdom of God made visible to us in the Person of Jesus—that the Holy Spirit has scribed, or written down, in a book called the Bible.


What We Need to Know about the Bible

When we speak of the Bible, what we are actually referring to is the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order—and, with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

Now, in order to add to our knowledge about and to enhance our study of the Bible, there are a few more things that we need to understand about it—the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written.  It is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

…I the Lord do not change… (Mal. 3:6), and …I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done (Is. 46: 9-10)…

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine inspiration, or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Scribes at work on the Word

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was…

… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live like Jesus—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him through faith in Jesus.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The Bible is about Jesus

Some of the other things about it that we need to know are…

The Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

The Bible is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, toward this end, He purposefully incorporated things in His creation which He could use for His divine illustrations.

The Bible is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of His Person is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; and, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, though, He is seen overtly or openly, making His appearance in the flesh as the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types—and, as the physical manifestation to us of the collective thought and wisdom of God!  And, it is through His application of this thought and wisdom, which permeates every page of the Bible, that the Holy Spirit is able to transform our minds from the carnal to the spiritual, to restore our souls to their original function as mediators, and to teach us how to…

…prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

Restoring the Mind and Emotions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2Instead of our usual musical selection, and to add to our understanding of the Bible we have been talking about, here is the video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Story,”  which is also available for viewing in our Video Vault…

 

 

 

[1] word. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/word (accessed: June 04, 2016).